WEST LIBERTY – Adriel’s own governing board has voted to close the organization’s residential facility after allegations of staff abusing drugs with youths and showing pornography to youths and allegations of other abuses.
Adriel President and CEO Todd Hanes said Monday that during a special meeting held Friday evening, he made a recommendation to the 13-member board of trustees to cease operating the residential facility in West Liberty, a decision the board unanimously supported.
“This was not an easy decision for the board,” he said. “Adriel will come through this and be around after this, but it will look a little different.”
Allegations aside, Hanes said the number one goal at Adriel is to “operate quality programs,” which had become increasingly challenging to meet in the residential care arena in recent years.
“It came to our realization that this (residential treatment facility) is not the quality program we want to run,” he said.
Hanes added achieving this goal requires qualified staff and proper funding, both of which have become increasingly hard to come by, despite Adriel’s best efforts.
“We increased salary and training for our staff,” he said. “Also, the funding is lagging in the state to run a quality program.”
From now until the facility closes its doors on Feb. 17, Hanes added the primary focus will be on relocating the 39 individuals currently housed in the group home.
“We are working with the counties (44 in total) we serve to find appropriate next placements,” he said. While some will need to continue receiving similar support elsewhere, others will be placed up for adoption or entered into foster care, Hanes added.
As for how the West Liberty staple will be remembered long after its closure, Hanes believes its impact on many youth throughout the state can’t be forgotten.
“I think a tremendous number of positive stories have come out of this place,” he said. “There has been a great deal of success here.”
The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) had previously issued a notice of a proposed revocation of Adriel’s license to operate a children’s residential center and group home at the end of January.
According to its website, “Adriel has a long and rich history of caring for children in need. Founded as the Mennonite Children’s Home in 1896, Adriel’s mission has always focused on serving those children who either have no family or whose family environment is not safe or healthy. As the needs of children and families have changed, Adriel has adapted and expanded its services to meet them. Adriel has a strong continuum of care that ensures that children with varying treatment needs can be served. The foster care and adoption program, the family preservation program, and residential program all focus on positive reinforcement to reshape problem behaviors as well as empowering young people to make healthy life decisions. Treatment planning is an active and ongoing process that takes into account the needs of the youth and consideration for family relationships. The ultimate treatment goal for all children served by Adriel is to return them to permanent and stable family life.”
The West Liberty residential facility is only one component of Adriel’s services. Adriel also oversees placement of children into foster care family homes around the state of Ohio.
The January ODJFS notice lists 15 violations in the Ohio Administrative Code, including staff assisting youths with drug and cigarette use, multiple abuse and physical injury claims to youths, and accusations of staff showing youths pornographic video.
One citation states a staff member mixed codeine and soda and drank it with a youth. Another citation states that same staff member was observed crushing pills and using a dollar bill to show youths how to make a straw and snort the pills. That same staff member is accused of showing youths a video on the staff member’s cell phone of staff members having sex with each other and showing other youths a video of two unknown men having sex.
Most of the citations occurred in 2016, according to the notice.
Other citations detail staff failing to investigate reported sexual assaults involving either residents or staff; not properly locking away medications, making it possible for youths to take them; and multiple complaints of abuse or misuse of restraints on youths. Additional citations note problems with methods of discipline, such as reducing the amount of food given to youths and taking clothing or bedding to punish youths for leaving the facility without permission.
One citation concerns youths placed in a “calm down room” and blocked from leaving it by staff. The citation notes Adriel does not have an approved isolation/seclusion room or policy and so is not permitted to place children in isolation or seclusion.
Still other citations note youths not given adequate consultation over grievances filed or follow ups. Some staff were accused of not allowing children to attend religious services when requested. Another complaint states the agency did not have enough staff on hand to support children attending regularly scheduled medical appointments.
What comes next?
Adriel provides a variety of services in 44 counties in the state. It has offices in Toledo, Archbold, Dublin, West Liberty, and some meeting space in Defiance, Hanes said. The organization holds two licenses – one for foster care, adoption, family preservation, visitation, respite services; and a second for the group home that is now set to close.
Hanes said the plan is to keep an office open in West Liberty to continue offering Adriel’s nonresidential care services, which he expects will grow over time as resources are shifted away from the group home.
“We see a great deal of growth if we can focus on the things we do well,” he added.
Only time will tell, Hanes said, as to what Adriel decides to do with some or all of its 50-acre campus.
The closure of the West Liberty facility could also have economic impacts on the surrounding community, Hanes said, adding Adriel staff purchase goods and services locally and contribute to the local economy in a number of ways.